Connect with Us



The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE October 16, 2008

New Study Finds Dangerous Carcinogen in Fast-Food Grilled Chicken

Every Sample from McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse, Chick-fil-A, and Four Other Chains Contains Cancer-Causing Chemical, Laboratory Tests Reveal

WASHINGTON—A new study published Sept. 18 in Nutrition and Cancer shows that consumers are exposed to a known carcinogen when they consume grilled chicken. One hundred samples from seven popular chain restaurants were analyzed by an independent laboratory, and PhIP, a known human carcinogen, was found in every sample.

PhIP forms when meat, especially chicken, is grilled or pan-fried at high temperatures, and, for more than a decade, it has been on the California governor’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer. The carcinogen-containing grilled chicken samples, including salads, sandwiches, and entrées, were collected from McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, Outback Steakhouse, Burger King, and Applebee’s.

“Grilled chicken is the largest source of PhIP, a potent carcinogen,” says Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., lead author of the new study and a toxicologist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “We found this carcinogen in every single sample of grilled chicken taken from restaurants in every part of California.” 

PhIP is one of a group of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), and it is a known mutagen that can cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. In human studies investigating well-done meat consumption and cancer risk, the highest risk is for cancers of the prostate, colon/rectum, and breast. In 2005, the federal government officially added HCAs to its list of anticipated human carcinogens. Even small amounts can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

People consuming PhIP and similar compounds are more likely to develop cancer, compared to other people. The new study shows that PhIP is pervasive in grilled chicken products. “You don’t want fried chicken, obviously, with all its fat and cholesterol, but it turns out that grilled chicken is peppered with chemicals clearly linked to cancer,” Ms. Sullivan said. Chemist Michael Erikson, M. S., toxicologist Chad Sandusky, Ph.D., and Neal Barnard, M.D. are co-authors.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne McVey
202-686-2210, ext. 316

Kristie Stoick, M.P.H.
Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.

Related Link:
Detection of PhIP in Grilled Chicken entrées at Popular Chain Restaurants Throughout California

Mail Options:
Subscribe to PCRM’s news release distribution list

Unsubscribe from PCRM’s news release distribution list

2015 Archive

2014 Archive

2013 Archive

2012 Archive

2011 Archive

2010 Archive

2009 Archive

2008 Archive

2007 Archive

2006 Archive

2005 Archive

2004 Archive

2003 Archive

2002 Archive

2001 Archive

2000 Archive

This site does not provide medical or legal advice. This Web site is for informational purposes only.
Full Disclaimer | Privacy Policy

The Physicians Committee
5100 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Ste.400, Washington DC, 20016
Phone: 202-686-2210     Email: